I rarely write reviews of works of fiction, but this book is part of my 52 Books Challenge with Goodreads so I’d better get used to it. Children of Time is a science fiction novel written by Adrian Tchaikovsky and is the first in what is to become a space operaseries. It tells the story of humanity’s flight from a devastated earth (just don’t mention Greta Thunberg!) and their search for a suitable planet to resettle on.
The book is essentially in 3 parts. The first part describes how a terraforming research ship, led by Dr Kern and her crew of 16 who are mostly engineers and scientists, locates an uninhabited planet which it seeds with a nanovirus to develop “new life” on the planet at a greatly accelerated rate. Her plan is to then deliver a shipload of monkeys to the planet who will be accelerated to human form in decades rather than millions of years. However, it doesn’t go quite according to plan!
The next 2 parts are set thousands of years in the future when a new large ship carrying thousands of humans, asleep in cryogenic tanks, approaches the planet and find Dr Kern’s ship still orbiting it. The new ship is not aware of Kern having delivered a load of monkeys below and are surprised to find that she will not allow them to land, threatening to attack them with her superior ship if they attempt it. Obviously Dr Kern has been in cryogenic sleep herself and only awakened on their approach.
These two parts earlier mentioned now run in parallel. One is about the new ship and the other is about the inhabitants of the planet who are ……. spiders, not monkeys! That’s not a spoiler as it’s mentioned in the books description and occurs very early in the plot.
The main character on the ship is Mason Holsten, a classical scholar, who spends much time in the cryogenic tank, but is awoken when he is needed to communicate with and interpret messages from the spiders as well as Kern. The main spider characters are Portia, Bianca and Fabian who are within a society developed by the nanovirus spread by Dr Kern but intended for her monkeys who should by now have been a super developed human race.
There is clearly going to be trouble here across a three-way power struggle between humans on an ark ship arriving at a planet they thought was theirs, an earlier human ship which had contained scientists whose personal mission was to create a new human race from monkeys sent down to the planet, and a planet full of spiders transformed by the nanovirus who consider it their home. Something has to give!
The book is about 600 pages long, though I bought the Audible version and listened to it rather than read it. I’m quite a science fiction fan and enjoy long series of books in this genre but have never come across Adrian Tchaikovsky before. Overall I enjoyed the book, it’s a simple enough plot with good characterisation across the three parts. It got a little bogged down in the middle though as the new arrivals with Holsten “battled” with Kern in the original ship across hundreds of years (!) trying to get permission to land on Kerns planet. If you’re a SF fan you will probably enjoy it too, but if you are thinking of trying this genre for the first time I wouldn’t make this your first book. In my case though, I’ve just downloaded the second book in the series, Children of Ruin.